Paul Graham is a computer programmer and author and thinker about the world iof the web. He wrote an interesting essay, “How to do Philosophy,” about his own interest in philosophy, philosophy’s history as he sees it, and its possibilities. He has some harsh things to say about a lot of traditional philosophy, but they’re worth mulling over. His proposal for philosophy:
I propose we try again, but that we use that heretofore despised criterion, applicability, as a guide to keep us from wondering off into a swamp of abstractions. Instead of trying to answer the question:
What are the most general truths?
let’s try to answer the question
Of all the useful things we can say, which are the most general?
The test of utility I propose is whether we cause people who read what we’ve written to do anything differently afterward. Knowing we have to give definite (if implicit) advice will keep us from straying beyond the resolution of the words we’re using.